I woke up on a recent Sunday morning with no planned adventures, no scheduled appointments, and no desires to lie around. Before tapping into a Mobius mocha in Silverton I quizzed Mr. Hardrock, aka the Firestarter, PLT CEO, Calfzilla, Chris. Specifically, I inquired about a hike that would remind me of our hike through Ice Lakes Basin.
Chris recommended a walk out of Cunningham Gulch. "Get high," he said. "You should see some flowers," he claimed. I bit on his words as if I were feasting on warm blueberry oatmeal cookies. Just the previous day I had driven past Cunningham Gulch on my way to Animas Fork on CO 4, so I knew that he was directing me to a point that would allow me enough time to sip and savor the tasty mocha before launching myself up to 12,000 feet. Without wasting daylight I walked out to the rental RAV and loaded essentials into a day pack.
That little walk evolved, as my walks almost always do, into a jog. When the sights are so grand, when nature overwhelms the senses, when greediness infects an adventurous soul, and when days seem too short, the best thing to do is travel at a brisk clip to the next horizon, relax, absorb, reflect, and then do it all over again and again and again. My five or six mile "recovery walk" turned into a twelve mile victory tour of the Continental Divide in the ruggedly majestic San Juan highlands.
Rocky peaks jutted into a blue sky as I ascended steeply out of the gulch. Soon, however, patches of dark clouds formed, grew, and crept along as they often do at altitude. I responded by sneaking upward glances as I moved across the high country along a thread of a trail. Just beyond that rise, I thought, I'll get a closer view, a better angle, another dramatic landscape. I crossed paths with more than a dozen hikers along the way. They, too, seemed to nervously watch the sky. And they were heading down.
It wasn't until the sky directly above me turned black and began to dump oceanic volumes of high quality H2O on me that I reversed course. The rain brought relief from the hot, unfiltered sunlight, but it also served to warn me of potentially relentless lightening strikes. Having experienced an electron storm once, at the 14,155-foot summit of Tabeguache, I was not remotely interested in another one. So, I ran until another scene demanded my attention.
Eventually, I ran out from under those clouds. Though my pace slowed a bit, my distrust of the ever-changing sky kept me moving briskly. Until, that is, I came upon another high meadow that was spotted with brilliant colors. It was there that flowers danced in whimsical winds while I photographed them. Eventually, the sky again turned black and I was ushered from the high country by intermittent marble sized raindrops. I left with a bounce in my uneven stride and a great number of memories stored in my mind and camera. ST
|Cascading snowmelt which . . .|
|. . . became this cold water crossing to start the hike|
|The hiking heart rate was the same|
as when running 6:30 miles at home
|See that waterfall now?|
|These four were ending a four day camping trip|
|Fakes precede most high passes|
|Finally - looking back down|
On The Divide at 12,000 Feet
|One of the bogs|
|See, now I had to go over there.|
|And then over there.|
|Talking about blending in!|
|What a defense mechanism!|
|Made it back for the six o'clock Silverton ensemble|
|Firestarter brings forth another corpse|
|Sun setting on another fine day|
"Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky
as well as the earth." - H. D. Thoreau